#12: Mercy Is King

"The Jubilee year will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on November 20th...God’s mercy, rather than a sign of weakness, is the mark of his omnipotence." – Pope Francis

Kings (or their contemporary counterparts) are about privilege and power.  When we think of them, our fantasies about omnipotence – unbridled willfulness - kick in. Whatever kings want to do, they do. Whatever gets in their way is quickly overcome. Even if they want to do good, there would certainly be opposition that must be crushed.  This type of dominance seems to be salve for our real situations of not having all the power we want.  


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#11 – The Spirit of the Samaritan

"The Jubilee… demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan." – Pope Francis

The spirit of the Samaritan is: whatever it takes.

We know the story. A man, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, falls into the hands of robbers who strip him, beat him, and leave him half-dead.

Whenever life is stripped, beaten, and left half dead,
it doesn’t acquiesce easily.
Even if there are no words,
life cries out,
hoping stronger life will appear to help.

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#10 – The Eternal Mystery of Love

"To repeat continually ‘for his mercy endures forever,’ as the psalm [136] does, seems to break through the dimensions of space and time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love."  – Pope Francis

The “eternal mystery of love” is not as pressing as getting to work, shepherding kids, and making meals. The immediate that has to be done occupies the mind and motivates the hands. The big picture is often lost; small pictures, one after the other, monopolize. Yet Psalm 136 holds together the eternal mystery of love and the practical plans of survival. After each recital of some aspect of creation, covenant, and human need, the psalm remembers, “God’s mercy endures forever.” (Sometime “mercy” is translated as “steadfast love.”) “Who remembered us in our low estate, for God’s mercy endures forever. Who gives food to all flesh, for God’s mercy endures forever…”

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#9 – Comfort the Sorrowful, Instruct the Ignorant

"It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the spiritual . . . works of mercy." – Pope Francis

The spiritual works of mercy developed as Christians cared for the world in which they lived – admonish the sinner, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, instruct the ignorant, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, pray for the living and the dead. To reflect on these works includes doing them and then looking back on what we have done and who we have become.

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#8 – Visit the Sick, Bury the Dead

"It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal . . . works of mercy." – Pope Francis

The corporal works of mercy developed as Christians cared for world in which they lived - feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, bury the dead. To reflect on these works includes knowing their history that inspires us to commit to them. The world in which the Christian movement began was a world of plagues. During 165-180 C.E., it is estimated that thirty percent of the population of Antioch died and another thirty percent fled, including the physicians. There was no dishonor in fleeing. It was the accepted strategy.

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#7 – The Motto

"Merciful like the Father is the 'motto' of this Holy Year." – Pope Francis

The Pope is talking about the father in the well-known story we call The Prodigal Son. (Lk. 15: 11-32) To shorten and summarize: The younger son wedels his inheritance from the father and goes into “riotous living” in a far country. He discovers the nature of money: it runs out. Reduced to taking a job feeding pigs, he would eat with the pigs, but no one offered. The bottom...

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#6 – Self-Mercy

“May the message of mercy reach everyone and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy.” — Pope Francis

The easiest and yet most difficult way for mercy to reach everyone is for us to have mercy on ourselves. This may seem strange, but there is a good reason why this should happen. We can dream more than we can do. We can commit to spiritually grounded values, but we have trouble enacting them. It is our human make-up. This means we are built for mistakes, a condition we have to learn to live with. Living with it means mercy begins at home. We have to extend mercy to ourselves. 

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#5 – Digging Around

"The Lord asks us above all … not to condemn.” – Pope Francis

A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil? The gardener replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good. But if not, you can cut it down.” (Luke 13:6)

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#4 – Remembering Mercy

“In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us." – Pope Francis

You ruthless servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt. 18: 32)  This is the situation. The king, who says these words, had forgiven the servant a huge amount. But this servant did not forgive a fellow servant who owed him a small amount. Instead he sent him to debtor’s prison. 

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#3 – The River of Mercy

". . . the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly." – Pope Francis

Although we often want the clarity of a single definition, it may be better to image mercy as a river “welling up” and “overflowing” in many ways.  At times, to have mercy is to call to a potential for good in a person that is present even if at the moment it is in danger of being eclipsed. At times, to have mercy entails pointing out the harm to individuals that policies and structures are doing and calling everyone to create better structures and behaviors....

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#2 – Pass Through the Holy Door

"[To begin the Holy Year] I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door, a Door of Mercy. Let us set aside all fear and dread… to pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them." – Pope Francis

So let us accept the Pope’s invitation…. Perhaps you feel scattered. While you are about many things, there doesn’t seem to be a unity. Something at the center and core is missing. Pass through the Holy Door. Perhaps all your commitments are in place and on the whole you are pleased. But they need to be renewed, claimed and engaged with the energies that are available to you now. Pass through the Holy Door....

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#1 – Oasis Reflections

"In our parishes, communities, associations and movements … everyone should find an oasis of mercy. "– Pope Francis

“Oasis” is a provocative image. Although we are not a desert culture, we have travelled enough, seen enough movies, and read enough books to grasp the meaning.  Oasis is a place of rest and resources in the middle of a desert. When we are there, we connect with our spirit before we return to the hardships of the demanding desert.

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